USPTO to Open First Satellite Office in Detroit

By: David Pascarella

On December 16, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it will open its first ever satellite office in Detroit, Michigan in the summer of 2011. Currently, all U.S. patent examiners are located at the USPTO’s offices in Alexandria, Virginia, or within a limited radius of that office. The Detroit office is expected to hire 100 patent examiners and support personnel in the first year.

According to USPTO Director, David Kappos, “[t]he Nationwide Workforce Program represents a shift in the way the USPTO does business” and “establishing satellite offices in geographically and economically diverse areas of the country will enable the agency to better recruit and retain a broad range of talented patent professionals.”

The USPTO announcement came only a week after new federal legislation, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, was signed into law. Under the new law, all federal agencies are required to establish telework policies within six months. Prior to the telework legislation taking effect, only patent examiners located within 50 miles of the USPTO’s Alexandria, VA headquarters could work from home or otherwise “hotel” away from the Alexandria office.

Currently, the USPTO has a backlog of more than 700,000 pending patent applications. Typically, receiving a first Office Action on the merits for a non-provisional utility patent application can take two to three years after filing the application. It is hoped that the Detroit satellite office will ultimately assist in reducing the agency’s significant backlog.

The USPTO considered many factors in its decision to locate the new satellite office in Detroit. The city fulfilled a number of critical criteria, including having a high percentage of scientists and engineers in the workforce; providing access to major research institutions, particularly leading universities; and supporting a high volume of patenting activity and significant numbers of patent agents and attorneys in the area.